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Mayorhood: A Last-Minute Push?




taylor brown|| By TAYLOR BROWN || I’ve been hearing rumors all week that Columbia, S.C. “Mayorhood” Steve Benjamin is planning a last minute push to make sure his hand-picked minions get elected to city council next week instead of two candidates who might not vote with his Lack-of-Honor 100 percent of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, Howard Duvall would not be a voice for openness and accountability in government – that is just not his nature.  However, I do think he would occasionally stand up to the mayor.  Duvall has the background to be the type of council member our city desperately needs, but I think he is like the high school student who will fail to live up to his potential because he is unable to focus on the important issues at hand.

According to Benjamin’s latest filing, he has $205,000 cash on hand in his campaign account.  But the mayor has a problem, even though many of his cronies in the legislature have not voted to update our state’s antiquated campaign laws – it is still going to be difficult for the mayor to legally spend his campaign money in support of his two chosen ones.

Damn those inconvenient laws!

Here is the link showing Benjamin’s contributions and expenditures.  It makes for some interesting reading.  Make sure you check out the contributor list and who gets paid on Benjamin’s expenditure pages.  It appears as though there are some GOP firms under contract to the Mayorhood.

The “X-factor” in any South Carolina race is that groups can spend all the private and corporate money they want as an independent expenditure organization, but I am simply not hearing that the mayor is planning to use such a front group.  After all, he has all that money – other people’s money – just sitting in his campaign account.  Since it is all special interest money or crony money – my pet name for this money is “stripper money” – there will always be more forthcoming to make sure the mayor’s campaign account is flush.

Maybe Benjamin will get crony capitalist developer Bob Hughes or his hanger-on, GOP consultant Bob McAlister, to pony up with the promise the gravy train will continue for Bull Street.  Of course McAlister ran incumbent councilman Cameron Runyan‘s campaign into the ground – so there’s no guarantee getting him involved will produce the desired outcome.

As an aside, I received a Runyan mail piece on Friday – three days after the election.

Sadly, there is no real time ethics reporting for the mayor prior to this election (his name isn’t on the ballot), so we will have to wait until January to see how Benjamin and his cronies tried to influence Columbia’s voters.

According to my sources, Benjamin and his advisors are working closely with his two candidates of choice – Andy Smith and Aaron Bishop – in the hopes of launching a $50,000-plus media buy that doesn’t run afoul of state ethics law.  I don’t know about you, but it deeply disturbs me when politicians spend their time, energy and resources trying to obey the letter of the law as they seek to shred the spirit and intent of the law – but maybe that’s just me.

As I noted in my last update on the Columbia runoff, I hope the voters in our community bother to show up and vote against Benjamin and his cronies.  I am supporting Duvall reluctantly as the lesser of two of evils, and hope he proves me wrong by providing the voters of our city with open and honest leadership.  And while I do not know Rev. Ed McDowell, I hope he defeats Bishop in the other runoff election because the latter would be nothing but a rubber stamp vote for the mayor.

Taylor Brown is a 20-something Wofford College graduate who somehow got sucked into politics at an early age.  She is easily won over with Rush’s fast food, wine, and spirited political arguments.